How To Build Bow Front Drawers

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16.000 Woodworking Plans by Ted McGrath

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H I ere's a little challenge. Set this end table in a room with JL JLa bunch of woodworkers and see what they look at first. I bet you nine times out of ten, the bow-front drawers will be opened first and given a close inspection. And frankly, I'd do the same thing. The drawers are one of the most intriguing features of this project

You don't see bow-front drawers very often. So if s natural to be curious about how they're built. Are they bent to this shape or cut from a thick block? And how do you go about joining the bowed front to the straight sides?

For these drawers, I used a procedure that was a little unusual, but it allowed me to build the drawers without any special jigs or materials. The secret is to start off by building an ordinary ^"-thick drawer with machine-cut dovetails. But before gluing these drawer pieces together, I glued a thick block to the front piece and cut out the curves. For a closer look at this process, there's a step-by-step article that starts on page 16.

Once you've discovered the trick to how the drawers are built, there are still a few other design details on this table you'll want to look at a little closer.

FLUTED LEGS. Take the legs, for instance. They look like square columns with flutes on the outside faces and chamfers on the corners. Here, consistency is everything. The three flutes on each face must be spaced evenly and stop the same distance from the top and bottom of the legs. But there's nothing complicated about the procedure. All you need is a careful setup on the router table with a common core box bit, see the box on page 9.

CURVED EDGING. This end table has plenty of other details to look at: the bead profiles on the sides, the curved edging, and the ogee profile around the top. But there's one detail you won't be able to resist touching — the finish. I gave the top of this table a glass-smooth finish. This requires a few extra coats of finish and a little elbow grease, but it's well worth it, see page 15.

Construction Details

OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 24V2"H x 79"1/1/ x 24WD

Profile on edge -created with ogee fillet bit note:

For more on making bow-front drawers, see page 16

Profile on edge -created with ogee fillet bit note:

For more on making bow-front drawers, see page 16

Drawer Making
A Opening the drawer reveals the half-blind dovetail joinery and allows you a closer look at the sweeping curve of the fronts.

Fluted Legs

Though the bow-front drawers on the end table attract the most attention, the legs also deserve a closer look. On each outside face, I routed three flutes (rounded, stopped grooves like those you might find on a column), see drawing at right. But don't worry. The flutes are fairly simple to create. They're done on the router table with a core box bit, see next page.

CUT TO SIZE. To make the legs (A), I started with 8/4 stock that's cut IV2'1 square, see drawing. Then the legs can be cut to final length. (I used walnut to build this table, but mahogany or cherry would also look nice with a formal project like this.)

CREATE MORTISES. The legs will be joined by a back and two side panels. This U-shaped case is held together with mortise and tenon joints. However, since the panels will be over 11" wide, I wanted to keep the leg mortises as strong as possible. So instead of a single mortise on each face, I cut two shorter ones, see detail 'a.'

But before carrying the legs over to the drill press, I took the time to carefully lay out the mortises. There's nothing more frustrating than drilling a mortise in the wrong place. Plus, the legs on this table aren't identical, see detail 'b' at right. The back legs are mortised on two adjacent faces. The front legs on only one face.

To create mortises, I like to drill overlapping holes and clean up each mortise with a chisel, see Fig. 1. And I typically drill them VW' deeper than the length of the tenons. This way, there will be room for excess glue.

ROUT FLUTES. With the mortises cut, work can begin on the narrow flutes.


Chamfers stop flush with flutes u ?


Chamfers stop flush with flutes back leg



Chamfers stop flush with flutes

Foot pad created with V4" round-over bit

The goal with the flutes is to get them evenly spaced and to get them to line up on the top and bottom. This is easy enough to do on the router table with a core box bit. All you need is a long fence and a couple stop blocks. For more on this, see next page.

CHAMFER EDGES. Besides the flutes, I also chamfered the outside edges of the legs. This is the same basic procedure used for the flutes. But you'll need to replace the core box bit with a chamfer bit and readjust the fence and stop blocks so the chamfers end up even with the flutes, see Fig. 2.

FOOT PADS. There's one last detail to add before the legs are complete. I cut a unique foot pad on the bottom of each leg, see detail 'c' above. This pad is rounded with a Vie" shoulder, and it's routed on the router table using a Vi" round-over bit, see Fig. 3. (To back up the cut, I used a miter gauge with an auxiliary fence.)

Cut two mortises note: Clean up mortises with chisel leg

Cut two mortises note: Clean up mortises with chisel note:

Fence and stop blocks differ from flute setup

Gazebo Plan Architect Design

Don't rout inside edge -


Fence and stop blocks differ from flute setup

Don't rout inside edge -

Chamfer bit

W round-over bit

Leg Flutes

W round-over bit

- routing the Flutes

II mi mw iiwiimni

Many table legs are pretty basic and don't attract a lot of attention. But the legs on this table have been "dressed up" with small, round flutes that really add interest.

Because the flutes attract more attention, extra care has to be taken to make sure they are consistent. The trick is to get them spaced evenly. What's more, the flutes are stopped, so they have to line up at the top and bottom too.

I routed the flutes on the router table, using a common core box bit. This is a plunge cut — at both ends. You have to set the leg onto the spinning bit at the beginning of the cut and lift it off at the end. This isn't at all scary though. For one thing, the bit is only Vfe" in diameter and is cutting just M6" deep. And a stop block at each end makes the starting and stopping automatic.

Setting up this cut is a two-step process. First, you work on the spacing of the flutes by setting the fence. Then you make sure they'll be aligned by adding the stop blocks.

SETTING FENCE. Normally, routing three flutes on a face would require three fence settings. But to keep the spacing even, I set the fence once and then


— '/^'spacer

Stop block


Aux. fence

Vl6" 1

" -.I 1


Vs"core /*! box bit

used y4M-thiek spacers to shift the piece, see Steps 1-3 below.

Your normal router fence probably won't work though. In order to clamp a stop block at each end, youH need a fence over twice as long as the legs. I made mine out of 3/4M solid wood and clamped it to the table face down so it was only 3/4m tall, see drawing. This low profile allowed me to easily hold the legs and spacers together when routing.

There's one more thing to keep in mind when setting the fence. The spacers take care of the spacing, but the flutes should also be centered on the width of the legs. The easiest way to do this is to set the fence to cut the middle flute (the one routed with one spacer, see Step 1). If this flute is centered, then the others will be in the correct positions too.

SETTING STOP BLOCKS. With the fence set, the stop blocks can be added. These take care of the alignment of the flutes, so they stop and start the same.

The trick is that the flutes don't stop the same distance from each end (there's an extra 1/4m on the bottom for a foot pad). So when setting the blocks, make sure the grooves stop 3/4n from the bottom of the leg and W from the top, see details 'a' and 'c' on page 8.

Shop Note: To help me remember which end of the leg went against which stop block, I drew an "X" on the bottom of the legs and on the stop block that they butted against, see drawing below.

Once the stop blocks are clamped in placc, things go pretty quickly. When using the spacers, I simply held them to

the legs as I ran them across the router, see Steps 1 and 2.

After all the flutes have been routed, there may still be one step left When routing, it's natural to slow down at the ends of the cut, and you'll probably notice some burning. So I wrapped sandpaper around a dowel and sanded the flutes as needed, see Step 4.

Mark bottom of leg and "bottom" stop block

1A"-thick spacer

Mark bottom of leg and "bottom" stop block

1A"-thick spacer

Set leg on bit at beginning and lift it off at end of cut

Set leg on bit at beginning and lift it off at end of cut

No spacers

' y





1 After the fence and stop blocks have been set, rout the middle flutes, using a single Va -thick hardboard spacer.

2 Next, place another thick spacer between the fence and leg and rout the second set of flutes.

3 Finally, remove both hard-board spacers and rout the last set of flutes on the two outside faces of the legs.

4 If there has been any burning, wrap sandpaper around a Vs'-dia. dowel and carefully sand the flutes.




Grooves for web frames side

Grooves for web frames


Vr w


All the beads on this end table are created with a y^'-rad. beading bit. For sources, see page 35.

Case Panels & Frames

Once the legs are complete, three wide panels can be made that will connect the legs into a U-shaped case, see drawing above. Then to form the drawer openings that divide the case, I made three horizontal web frames.


The side and back panels that connect the legs will end up over 11" wide. So the first thing to do is glue them up from 3/4"-thick pieces of stock, see drawing above. Then the side (B) and back panels (C) can be cut to size, see side and end views above.

CUT TENONS. Next, two tenons can be cut on each end of the panels to fit into the mortises you cut in the legs. This isn't as complicated as it sounds. I simply cut one long tenon with W shoulders on the top and bottom. I did this just like I normally would, placing the pieces face down on the table saw, using a dado blade buried in an auxiliary fence.

Now to create two shorter tenons out of this one long tenon, I cut a 3A"-wide notch in the center, see Figs. 4 and 4a. Again, I used my table saw and dado blade to do this, standing the pieces on end and removing the waste in multiple passes. But I didn't raise the blade up all the way to the shoulder. They could end up with score marks on the shoulders that would be visible later. Instead, I cut the notch just short of the shoulders and used a chisel to complete the notch.

ROUT BEADS. At this point, the sides and back are rather plain, so I added a small decorative bead on the bottom edge of each, see Fig. 5. (This bead will also be cut on the curved edging pieces that divide the drawers later.) To do this, I used a W-radius beading bit, see margin photo. It's simply raised to cut a full bead with no shoulder, see Fig. 5a.

CUT GROOVES. At this point, the back is complete. The sides, on the other hand, need three W'-wide grooves that will hold the web frames, see Fig. 6. The grooves at the top and bottom are located 1/4" from the edges, and

Bow Front Side Table The Federalist


note: Notch tenons to fit mortises in legs sides & BACK


beading bit


Rout bead on bottom, outside face

Aux. fence

Cut notch shallow and ®© complete with chisel note:

Sides and back cut from W-thick panels note: Stub tenons on web frames fit into Va" x 5/k" grooves cut in side panels sides & back

Dado blade,

Outside face note: ^

See drawing above for groove locations

note: Grooves for web frames cut on sides only

-side the groove in the middle is centered.

ASSEMBLE LEGS & SIDES. After the grooves were cut, I glued the side panels between the front and back legs. (When doing this, just be sure the beads will end up on the outside.) As for the back, ifll be glued between the side assemblies a little later.


While the side assemblies were drying, I began building the web frames, see Fig. 7. These are just three hardwood frames that fit around 1A" plywood dust panels. But they're pretty important The frames strengthen the front of the case, create the drawer openings, and support the drawers.

RAILS & STILES. To accurately determine the final size of the frames, I dry assembled the side assemblies and back panel. Then I could begin cutting the rails and stiles to size, see Fig. 7.

Hie rails (D) are cut to fit between the grooves in the sides, so add to the side-to-side dimension. And to find the length of the stiles (E), measure from the inside face of the front legs to the back panel (C); then subtract the width of the two rails and add 1/2" for the stub tenons.

CUT GROOVES & STUB TENONS. To hold the 1/4" plywood panels, I cut a groove centered on the inside edges of the rails and stiles, see Fig. 8. Then cut mating stub tenons on the ends of the stiles to fit into the grooves that were just cut, see Fig. 9.

WEB PANEL. The W-thick plywood panel strengthens the frame, and it also keeps dust out of the drawers. The web panel (F) can be cut to fit into the grooves on the frame pieces. Then the frame can be glued together around the panel.

CUT TONGUES & NOTCHES. There are still a few things to do to the frames. First,

note: Size a tongue to fit grooves



note: Size a tongue to fit grooves

©stile note: Center groove on thickness

^ of workpiece

centered tongues need to be created on both sides of each frame, see Fig. 10. These tongues are sized to fit in the grooves on the side pieces.

And finally, I cut a notch in the back corners of each web frame, see Fig.

11. These allow the frames to fit around the back legs inside the case. And there's no need to worry about ending up with an air-tight fit. I simply laid out the notches and then cut them with a hand saw.


Thickness V.V ply.

Cut grooves in rails&

note: Center groove on thickness

^ of workpiece

Cut tongues on sides of ■ frame

Curved Edging

The most unique feature of this table is obvious — the curves on the front. But at first glance, you might miss the bead profile on the edging between the drawers, see drawing and detail 'a.' This profile is created in a simple two-step process. For the first step, you need a beading bit, and for the second, a quick auxiliary fence.

CUT TO SIZE. The first thing to do is to dry assemble the case — without the back, see drawing. (You'll need access to the back later.) Then with the case clamped together, you can cut three 3/4"-thick curved edging (G) pieces to fit between the front legs. But keep the edging wide at this point. (It's easier to cut a smooth curve on an extra-wide blank.)

CUT CURVES. With the blanks roughed out, you can begin to lay out the curves. These are the same as the curves that will be cut on the drawers, so I took a little extra time to make a reusable W hardboard template, see the pattern at right.

Now the template can be used to draw the curves on the three blanks. I roughed out the curves with a band saw, saving one of the "cutoff' pieces for later. Then I sanded to the lines with a drum sander on the drill press.

CREATE PROFILE. With the curves cut, I routed bead profiles on the top mid bottom edges, see Fig. 12. (I did this on the router table with the same bit used on the side panels earlier.)

Routing the beads is just the first step. I also removed the material between the beads so they would


Dry assemble case without back panel


curved edging note:

Glue edging to frame with case dry assembled



V2" squares stand out, see detail 'a' above. To do this, I used a Vi" straight bit and a simple cradle that was made from one of the curved waste pieces, see Fig. 13. (For more on this, see page 18.)

GLUE EDGING TO FRAMES. The curved trim pieces are now complete and can be glued to the front edges of the web frames. But to do this, leave the case dry assembled. This way, the legs on the sides will automatically position the edging, see drawing above. Gust be careful that you don't glue the edging to the legs at this point.)

MOUNTING HOLES. With the edging glued to the frames, there's one last thing to do before the case can be glued together. The top web frame needs some countersunk shank holes so you can mount the top panel later, see details 'a' and 'b' in drawing at top of next page. Shop Note: Drill the note:

For more on this procedure, see page 18

curved edging


Auxiliary fence (2x4)


Sneak up on final height note:

For sources of beading bit, see page 35

Cradle made from waste piece left when cutting curved edging

'A" straight bit

%2"-rad. beading bit holes slightly oversize so the panel can expand and contract freely with changes in humidity.

ASSEMBLY. Finally, the entire case is ready for final assembly. This means gluing the back panel and the three web frames between the two side assemblies, see drawing at right.


Like the legs and drawers, the top of this table should also have a few nice details. So the front edge is curved like the curved edging pieces. And I routed the edges with an ogee fillet bit to give it a classic profile.

GLUE UP PANEL. The first thing to do is glue up a panel from 3/4"-thick stock, see drawing at right. And since the top is the most visible surface on the table, I took extra care to choose and match some nice-looking boards.

After the glue is dry, the top (H) can be cut to size, see drawing. I simply sized the panel to overhang the legs 3/4" on all sides, see detail 'a.'And though I cut the panel to its final width, I left it a little long. Getting a smooth curve is easier this way.

CREATE CURVE. Since this curve is a couple inches wider than the curved edging (G), I couldn't use the same template. Instead I simply bent a flexible straightedge against a couple blocks and drew the curve directly on the top, see Fig. 14 and drawing above. Then ifs cut out and sanded smooth with a disk or drum sander.

ROUT PROFILE. Next, to give the top a unique profile, I routed around the edges with an ogee fillet bit, see Fig. 15 and photo in margin. This is a two-step process, but you can use the same bit with both steps.

The first pass is routed full depth, see Fig. 15a. (To avoid chipout, rout the ends first, moving the router left-to-right) For the second pass, you'll need to adjust the depth of the bit so the bearing will still ride along the flat edge, see Fig. 15b. This means there will be a little sanding left to do to round the edge completely.

At this point, the top can be screwed to the case. But before doing this, I applied a coat of finish to the bottom face of the top so it was less likely to cup, refer to page 15.

Flexible ^ straightedge

The classic profile around the table top is created with an ogee fillet bit. For sources, see page 35.


When gluing case together, include legs, side assemblies, back, and web frames


#8x VA" Fh woodscrew con hi

Oversize holes allow top to expand and contract with humidity note:

Top cut from extra long 3A"-thick panel


Flexible ^ straightedge

k When laying out the pilot holes for mounting the pulls, I protected the finish with strips of masking tape.

wear a visible groove in the curved edging. So to avoid this, I placed nylon glide strips inside the cabinet for each drawer to ride on, see Fig. 16b. These glide strips were roughly W-thick, so they also established the proper gap at the bottom of the drawer.

STOPS. The next task is to get each drawer to shut so its front face is set just behind the bead on the curved edging, see Fig. 16c. To do this, I added a short block at the back of the case to act as a drawer stop, see Fig. 16. Sneak up on the final width of this stop (N). (Mine was wide.) Then simply glue the block to the back of the case with hand pressure.

DRAWER PULLS. To complete the drawers, aD that's left are the bail pulls. Note: I waited to mount the pulls until after the finish had been applied and rubbed out, see next page.

First, to avoid scratching the finish and to make it easy to see the layout lines, I applied tape to the front of the drawers and found the centerpoint, see margin photo. Then I laid out and drilled the holes for the posts and screws, see detail 'a' above. I drilled these holes slightly oversize since the bail back plate will have to "bend" slightly around the drawer. Now all that's left is to carefully remove the tape and screw the pull in place. ES9

Bow-Front Drawers

With this table, the best is saved for last—the bow-front drawers are both the main attraction and a great woodworking challenge.

BUILD DRAWERS. To build the drawer, you start by making a square drawer with ^"-thick stock and machine-cut dovetails, see exploded view and detail 'b.' (To help you out, there's a step-by-step article on page 16.) I sized the fronts (I) and backs (I) so the completed drawer would have a Vie" gap at the top, bottom and sides. And the sides (J) were cut 19" long. (The drawer ended up about5/«" short of the back of the case.)

But before assembling the drawer, a thick false front (K) is glued to the front piece. Now the front can be cut to shape and sanded smooth. Finally, a drawer bottom (L) can be added, and the drawers glued together.

FITTING THE DRAWERS. It's a good feeling to have the drawers assembled. But there's still work left to do before they'll slide smoothly in the case.

GUIDES. The first thing I did was add pieces to guide the drawers and center them side-to-side. The 3/4"-thick guides (M) are cut to length to fit between the legs, and they're ripped just wide enough to guide the drawer in and out of the case without binding, see Figs. 16 and 16a.

GUIDE STRIPS. Though the guides direct the drawer, you don't want the drawer to rest directly on the web frame. Eventually the drawer sides would rub through the finish and k When laying out the pilot holes for mounting the pulls, I protected the finish with strips of masking tape.



Drill holes for pull after applying finish front



Drill holes for pull after applying finish front


False front starts out oversize note:

False front starts out oversize

Insecticide Direct Spray Results Table

4 To give this table an heirloom-quality finish, I applied an oil-based varnish and "rubbed out" the top until it was smooth as glass.

Applying Varnish

I decided to use varnish for this end table for several reasons. First, oil-based varnish gives me the best results I can get without expensive spray equipment. Second, it adds a warm, reddish tint to the walnut without any special stain. And it provides a lot of protection too. (IusedBehlen's "Rockhard Table Top Varnish." For sources, see page 35.)

PREPARE SURFACE & CLEAN SHOP. I began by sanding the entire end table to 180-grit. Then I spent some time cleaning my shop. Because varnish takes a long time to dry, your worst enemy is dust It settles on the wet finish and creates a rough surface.

APPLY VARNISH. With the shop clean, you can begin applying coats of varnish. For the first coat, you may want to thin down the varnish so it flows out a little better, but the technique is the same. I brushed the varnish across the grain first to get the finish on the wood. Then I smoothed out the coat using a light brush stroke with the grain. YouH want to apply thin coats, or the finish will run and sag. (If it does, wipe it off immediately with mineral spirits. Or simply sand or scrape it away after it dries.)

After the first coat dries (overnight), youll want to smooth out the surface and remove any dust nibs with 400-grit wet-dry sandpaper and a sanding block. Then you can add a couple more coats, sanding between coats.

RUB OUT TOP. One option you might want to consider is to "rub out" the top. This requires more time and elbow grease, but you'll end up with a glass-smooth surface. Basically, "rubbing out" is using finer and finer abrasives to polish the surface. (There are a variety of these abrasives, but I like to use pumice and rottenstone.)

Before you can begin polishing, the finish needs to be "built up" so it's

4 To give this table an heirloom-quality finish, I applied an oil-based varnish and "rubbed out" the top until it was smooth as glass.

thicker. (I applied three or four additional coats to the top.) That way, you won't "cut" through the finish to bare wood. For more on rubbing out a finish, see Woodsmith No. 42.

Finally, I added a coat of wax to give the table a little more shine. CS


A Legs (4) 1 1/2 x 1V2 - 233A G Curved Edging (3) 3A x 21/2 - 141/2 M Drawer Guides (4) % x 9/ie - 181/2

B Sides (2) 3/4x111/4 - 19V2 H Top (1) 3Ax 19 - 243A N Drawer Stops (2) 3A x % - 4

C Back (1) % x 1 VA - 151/2 I Drawer Fronts/Backs (4)16 x 43/8 - 143/8

D Web Frame Rails (6) 3A x 11/2 - 16 J Drawer Sides (4) 1/2 x 43/8 - 19 • (4) Nylon Glide Strips

E Web Frame Stiles (6) 3/4 x 13/4 - 161/2 K Drawer False Fronts (2) 13/4 x 43/8 - 143/8 • (2) Bail Pulls (2" bore)

F Web Frame Panel (3) y4 ply. - 13 x 161/2 L Drawer Bottoms (2) V4 ply.-13%x19% • (6) #8 x 11A" Fh woodscrews


x 6" - 96" Walnut (Two Boards @ 4 Bd. Ft. Each)

x 6" - 96" Walnut (Two Boards @ 4 Bd. Ft. Each)

W x 6V2" - 72" Walnut (Two Boards @ 3.25 Bd. Ft. Each)

W x 6V2" - 72" Walnut (Two Boards @ 3.25 Bd. Ft. Each)

also needed:

48" x 48" piece of Va"-thick maple plywood also needed:

48" x 48" piece of Va"-thick maple plywood

V2" x 5" - 60" Maple (Two Boards @ 2.1 Sq. Ft. Each) J4* x 5" - 30" Walnut (1 Sq. Ft.)





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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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  • cosma
    How to build bow front drawers?
    7 years ago
  • Anthony
    How to router flutes in legs?
    7 years ago
  • dirk
    How to make bowfront drawers?
    7 years ago
  • Morgan
    How to make bow front front drawers?
    6 years ago
  • Semira
    Where can I getr drawer bails for bow front drawers?
    2 years ago
  • james trotta
    How to make bowed dresser drawer fronts?
    1 month ago

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